Week One Storylines for the Cubs

By Rob Willer

With the first week of the MLB season in the books, here are some of my week one storylines for the Cubs:

Demotion of Carlos Marmol: Marmol has always been an interesting one for Cubs fans with his antics as the closer. Marmol has had many great outings with the Cubs, but on the flipside has had his share of hiccups.

Marmol started off the season with a sub-par outing in Pittsburgh as he started with a strikeout of Garrett Jones on a full count, then Marmol hit Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates were off to races. The Cubs ended up winning the game but most fans were unsettled by Marmol’s performance. Marmol finally hit a tipping point Saturday against the Atlanta Braves when he came into the game with a one-run lead. Marmol then proceeded to give up the tying and winning run to cause Dale Sveum to demote him from the closer role.

The Emergence of Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija has taken the role of ace by storm and has proven his value each and every start last season along with opening day against the Pirates.

On opening day, Samardzija pitched eight solid innings and only gave up two hits. He coupled that outing with nine strikeouts and kept the Pirates off balance with his devastating fastball, slider and split-finger fastball. As long as Samardzija stays healthy throughout this season I see no reason for him not to be a dominant ace and one of the top pitchers in the National League.

Offensive Struggles: Through the first five games the Cubs’ offense has been mediocre, to say the least.

Starlin Castro leads the team in the first week with a .190 batting average. This could be due to the bad weather in Pittsburgh, but in my opinion the Cubs aren’t taking enough pitches. Many of the players on the team, including Castro, are swinging at either the first or second pitch, which causes quick innings. The downfall is that the opposing pitcher’s pitch count is very low and can go deep into the ballgame, and this saves the bullpen for the rest of the series. The Cubs need to get back to where they’re taking pitches and increasing the pitcher’s pitch counts so they can get deep into opposing bullpens. Hopefully this next week will be better for the Cubs offensively because scoring one run won’t win you most games.

The Cubs are 2-4 with their most recent loss to Atlanta on Sunday, and probably should be 3-4 after Saturday night’s Marmol debacle.

Early Grades: Starting rotation a solid A, bullpen for the most part solid but with Marmol B-, and I give our offense a D+. I believe the fielding defense deserves a C thanks to many boneheaded mistakes by our second baseman on steals of second, where catcher Welington Castillo should have had a caught-stealing.

The Cubs have their home opener today against the Brewers and will have a 10-game homestand with the Giants and Rangers coming to town. The Cubs now are getting into their tough schedule where they face three playoff teams from 2012 in their next five series, while also playing the Brewers who were a few games away from a playoff spot twice.